Cash-Only is “Inhospitable” and a Little Sleazy

A local restaurant here in Long Island City went “cash-only” about a month ago. When they first implemented the strategy, one of their bartenders told me that it was a “new business decision.” I jokingly replied, “of course, it’s easier to hide cash.” Initially, they put up a sign indicating their anti-plastic policy, but over the course of the last few weeks, any notice of the policy has disappeared: it was not mentioned on their cocktail menu and there is no sign over the register. The lack of any sign made me think they abandoned the policy and returned to accepting credit cards.

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The other evening, a couple of friends and I stopped by for a few drinks and to sit in an air-conditioned room. We ordered six $10 cocktails, and when the check came, we saw the “cash only” edict on the bill. None of us had brought much cash, thinking that they took plastic. They don’t. However, the restaurant’s management had conveniently installed an ATM in the back, charging a $1.75 transaction fee (in addition to whatever your bank might charge you). This seemed too opportunistic, and even a little sleazy.

If that wasn’t bad enough, they added sales tax to the $10 cocktail price. I’ve never seen any place add sales tax on a cocktails-only order. If a bar itemizes sales tax, the base price is a number that, when tax is added, reaches a nice even price. For example, our cocktails should have a base price of $9.18. Add 8.875% NY state and city sales tax, and you will get $9.99. And I’ll let them call it $10.

The biggest issue was that I had to get up, get cash from their ATM, and cobble together our payment. Not only was it bad enough that our six $10 cocktails actually cost $67.08, before tip, it just seemed mean. Bon Appetit’s Foodist also dislikes cash-only policies for restaurants, writing “It’s one thing for a sandwich shop or food truck to accept cash only, but when a place is charging $15 or more for entrees and offering wine by the bottle, not taking credit cards seems downright inhospitable.” Because of the added cost and inconvenience, I kind of stiffed the servers on the tip. I left only about a 10% tip, reasoning that the additional and completely unexpected costs made up the other 10%. Before they come after me, however, they might consider directing their ire towards the management and its “inhospitable” policies.

I won’t be back, and that’s a shame because the food and service were both quite good.

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